July 17, 2013

Review: The Farm

The Farm
The Farm by Emily McKay

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It took a while to get into this book, and my enthusiasm varied throughout. It reminds me of a summer movie blockbuster that keeps you enthralled while you're in the theater, but after the last credit rolls and you've had time to think about what you've seen, the plot holes grow bigger and bigger.

It's set in the near future, after blood-drinking, genetically engineered monsters known as Ticks have ravaged the U.S. (Exactly where 250 million or more people went is not explained, and our heroes sure aren't stumbling over scads of bodies. If survivors fled to Canada or Mexico, the plague that created the Ticks would be transmitted worldwide--hell, with modern air travel, it would anyway. Yet it doesn't seem to have done that. Also, one would think our allies in Europe and worldwide would be stepping into help, unless they just decided to quarantine the entire country. See, two paragraphs and the plot is turning into Swiss cheese.) They especially like the hormone-laden blood of teenagers, so teenagers are rounded up and confined to concentration camps, where all forms of birth control are promptly confiscated, so the prisoners can...create more teenagers? (Supposedly, the Ticks hate the blood of pregnant women, which leads to a rash of girls in the Farm--prescient name, that--getting pregnant to protect themselves for...just nine months? What happens to the babies after? Do they just kind of vanish and the girls sail forth to get pregnant again? You'd think the boys would get wise to that after a while.)

Well, never mind. We can put our brains on hold for a few hours, after all. Our plucky heroine, Lily, is planning to escape from the Farm--even though, as the book makes clear, she has no idea what's really out there and her plan is ill-conceived at best--together with her autistic twin sister, Mel. (There are first-person chapters from Lily and Mel's point of view, and third-person chapters from the POV of Carter, the boy soldier who sneaks into the camp because he's looking for Lily, who he believes to be an abductura, or empath, capable of controlling and influencing the emotions of others. He thinks that's what she is because in ninth grade he met her, took one look, and fell into instant love/obsession. The more I think about that, the creepier it sounds, although the author does do a fairly successful job of selling it. Just remember, don't think about it too much after you turn the last page.) I don't know enough about autism to know if this is an authentic portrayal--Mel does seem to have synthesia as well, that is, experiencing sounds as scents, hearing music in people, and so forth. It is a rather interesting depiction of a completely alien way of thinking.

By the way, there's not only Ticks, which are kind of explained; there are...vampires. Real, non-sparkly vampires. (Although I do resent the author's dragging Twilight into her narrative. Really, must Edward Cullen be woven into everything?) Non-sparkly vampires who apparently invented the Tick infestation in a territorial power grab. The Big Bad has his own abductura, and Carter and his vampiric companion are hunting for another one, hence the search for Lily.

Chases and fights abound; those are well-written, and the author does have a good sense of pace. Lily's and Mel's characterizations are good. What's sadly lacking is a story that makes sense. (One more thing--the United States military, the biggest, baddest army on the planet, is defeated in just a few months? Even with a bunch of Ticks and an abductura? When even your main character remarks on the impossibility of that, you should know you've gone off the rails.)

In the end, this book in eminently skippable, which is sad. This is the bones of a good story. The author just doesn't put any meat on it.

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